Dollars & Sense
There was a look of pride on the face of Mike Cummings as he sat in his conference room earlier this week.
The driving force and CEO of Miken Builders in Millville was enjoying the fact that his company was celebrating 30 years of doing business, and that their spinoff, BetterLiving of Delmarva, was in its eighth year of constructing sunrooms, porch enclosures and awnings.
He was proud of the fact that his average employee has worked with Miken for more than 10 years, that he has worked with Contractors for a Cause for nearly 20 years and was actively involved in the construction of Justin’s Beach House — the respite home in Bethany Beach for families affected by cancer. And he was most certainly proud of the two young men who shared the conference-room table with him.
Patrick is the sales manager at BetterLiving, and Sean is a project manager for Miken. They are both well-versed in the ways of Miken and know that each project they take on must live up to the high standards long-attributed to the company.
The Sussex County Today & Tomorrow Conference was held last week, with the mission of providing “insight and identify opportunities in Sussex County to promote economics, partnership and collaboration.”
Micheal Meoli, owner/operator of The Meoli Companies, was the conference’s keynote speaker, and discussed what it takes to be successful in business.
It started, as do many things in small towns, with a conversation at the post office. Then there came a letter from the CIA.
And with that, 40 years ago, the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce was born.
So says the organization’s first president, Clayton Ringler. Now 87 years old and living in Hayesville, NC, Ringler fondly recalled the chamber’s early days in a phone conversation last week.
The post office conversations, Ringler said, led to meetings of the first of the chamber’s organizers at Murray’s Topside Restaurant in Ocean View. Soon, the local newspaper, the Delmarva News, picked up on the chamber’s formation and published an article about it.
That’s where that letter comes into play. It was actually from Odette May, who at the time worked for the Central Intelligence Agency but was looking to retire in Bethany Beach. May, it seems, had seen the newspaper article and was writing to tell Ringler she wanted to get involved in the chamber.
Over the course of the past 22 years, the Cottage Café restaurant near Bethany Beach has more or less written the book for “the second season.”
Shoulder-season specials — including the Friday fish fry, Monday fried oysters and the always-popular roast turkey dinner on Sundays — have long been tradition for a legion of the area’s locals, and a way for the restaurant and pub to not only stay open throughout the winter but to show appreciation for the community that helps make it all possible.
While they’ve nailed that recipe down practically to a science after nearly two decades of R&D, this off-season, they’re cranking things up to 11 by teaming up with 16 Mile Brewery.
“It was like a match made in heaven,” said Cottage Café business manager Tom Harman, with a laugh, of when 16 Mile “Beer Slinger” Joe Botchie first came down to meet with Cottage Café/Bethany Boathouse bar manger Melanie Petrie and the rest of the Cottage crew.
It was their moment.
So much so that, on the morning of Aug. 25, upon entering the newly renovated space above Ocean Vayu Yoga and Pivot Physical Therapy, on what was to be the day of their grand opening, Angela Hutton, Amy Smith and Kira DiSabatino — the proud new owners of Pin Up Girls Salon in Ocean View — took full advantage of it, very literally jumping for joy to mark both the occasion and the milestone.
“I won’t lie — we walked in this morning, and we just collided and hugged. We acted like a bunch of little girls, screaming,” said Hutton with a laugh. “It feels amazing. It finally feels like we’re at home.”
PUG’s three co-owners may be embarking on a brand new venture but they are by no means strangers to the scissors and chair, each with an extensive salon résumé, having worked together at a salon in Millville for the past seven years. That’s where they not only honed their craft, but spent days dreaming about eventually going out on their own.
This summer brought a new addition to the bustling Bayside community near Fenwick Island, with the incarnation of the Town Center Market.
The open-air pop-up market is open from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, until Labor Day weekend. With vendors changing every night, homeowners and visitors are being treated to a rotation of local artisans, businesses and food trucks.
According to Bayside Director of Marketing Jeff Evans, the market was conceived out of the desire to “enhance the experience for the community” by bringing offerings from local businesses to residents.
“It was Michelle Freeman’s vision to provide some retail opportunities here in Bayside,” Evans said.
This summer, the idea was to bring a temporary, open-air market to the community, with the hope of eventually evolving it into a permanent retail space within the community.
Whether someone is looking for a special piece of furniture, a unique something to fill that corner in their beach house or just want to feel like they’re in Grandma’s attic for a little while, the Red Barn in Dagsboro could be just the ticket.
Robyn and Tom Wilhoit, the new owners of the Clayton Avenue resale shop, are settling into their first summer at the 100-year-old building. With goods literally hanging from its well-aged rafters, the couple said they finally feel like they have sufficient space to spread out and properly showcase the wide variety of items they have gathered.
Native Delawareans, the Wilhoits began their resale shop adventure after years in other fields. Initially, they opened Three Good Things in Oak Orchard — and quickly realized they needed more space.
“We outgrew the building on Route 24 in about three months,” Tom Wilhoit said.
When they were looking for a new spot, the Red Barn stood out because of its history, and because it offered three times the space of the Three Good Things spot, he said. As it turned out, one of the Wilhoits’ mentors in the resale business, George Ritter, was an owner of the former business located in the Red Barn.
Jennifer Wojcik knows fish.
Since moving to the area some 20 years ago, if she wasn’t working behind the bar, she had most likely gone fishing.
In fact, just last year, Wojcik and her crew on the Reel Passion even took first place in the Wahoo Division at the annual Poor Girl’s open in Ocean City, Md.
So when Ocean View Seafood went up for sale this past spring, with owners Dave and Beth Long ready to retire, combining her love of fishing with her experience in customer service just made sense.
“It worked out perfect. The place found me,” said Wojcik, who has been the proud new owner of Ocean View Seafood since purchasing the business in May.
“I’m lucky enough that the Longs chose me. I want to make sure that I do the best I can. It’s a family-run business.”
He may be in California, but Pete “Pierson” Roenke’s heart will always be in southern Delaware; and he has just launched a new business to pay tribute to his roots in the First State.
Delaware Apparel is an internet-based company that sells T-shirts, hats, jackets and stickers with Delaware-related slogans. The company has also been featured in “pop-up” displays at local stores, including the Lululemon outlet in Rehoboth Beach.
Roenke, a 2007 graduate of Indian River High School, grew up a few yards from the ocean in Fenwick Island, with all that entails — surfing, bodyboarding and just enjoying the beach lifestyle. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2011 and joined the U.S. Marines that same year.
Former lawyer launches Bethany’s first exclusive studio with Beach Body Barre
Linda Durfee sat in her car in front of the newly-opened Beach Body Barre studio in Bethany Beach, trying to work up the nerve to go in. Through the car’s windshield, she watched all of the 20-, 30- and 40-somethings walk through the door with only the workout clothing on their backs and seemingly without another thought.
Now in her 70s, she wondered if she could, too.
“I was sitting in the parking lot. My husband brought me down here, and I said to him, ‘OK —take a look at all those young bodies. I’m not going in there!” Durfee recalled with a laugh. “It’s kind of intimidating to walk into it.”
However, just like most newcomers to the growing exercise movement simply known as “barre,” despite her initial concerns, once she went in for one workout, she was hooked.
Woodsong Inn aims to be relaxing retreat and venue
A tree-lined driveway leads to Woodsong Inn & Retreat. It rests on a quiet back road. No one drives there unless they’re looking for the peaceful bed-and-breakfast near Roxana and Ocean View.
But that countryside seclusion makes the inn and event venue special, said co-owner Jane Errett Vincenti. Although she’s originally from Chester County, Pa., Vincenti’s family still owns the Bethany Beach cottage her ancestor, William Russell Errett, built around 1902 when helping to develop the new town.
Now, less than seven miles from Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, Woodsong’s two buildings are hosting everything from quiet weekend getaways to full weddings and parties.
“It is so relaxing back here,” said Debbie Keefe, innkeeper at the grassy, waterside property at 37269 Dirickson Creek Road, Frankford.
It was late last spring when Brittany Baker returned home from Puerto Rico, expecting to tend to someone else’s bar.
Spending the better part of her life’s so-far quarter-century in South Bethany, and after graduating from the University of Delaware, it was just something that she had always done — sticking together a routine résumé of winter world travel and growing up on sunny-season jobs along the Bethany boardwalk, swirling Dickey’s Frozen Custard, working at Breakers Surf Shop and slinging gin at area restaurants.
Then, she got a phone call.
“It was very random,” Baker said of the unexpected suggestion from long-time friend Erin Ternahan — whose family owns Breakers and, at the time, also owned the shop adjacent, formerly known as “The Parlour.”
“We were kind of joking — she was like, ‘Buy it — we’ll be neighbors. It’ll be like old times — like we’re 14 again.’”
No longer 14, when Baker brought the idea up to her parents, Ken and Ann Baker, one supper-night, it didn’t seem as funny as it did functional.
The family had long been boiling on ideas for a business in their hometown, never quite finding one cooked with enough consistency to stick to the fridge.
Until that night, when that one finally did.
Turtle Beach Café continues to jive in summer No. 5
“I’m as all in as you are.”
That’s what Tristan Smyth told his mother, Tamara Smyth, when she approached him during lacrosse season with the idea to launch Turtle Beach Café along the Bethany Beach boardwalk, now some four years ago.
A sophomore at Indian River High School then, and helping pioneer the Indians’ lacrosse program as a defenseman, Smyth already had a lot going on. However, like his father, Tony Smyth, he had faith not only in his mother’s vision, but her culinary gifts, experienced firsthand.
“She was always the ‘go to’ on the holidays. She’s always been a great cook,” Tony Smyth said. “She’s always been the one that could always pull it together, no matter who showed up. Whether it was five or 15 that showed up, Tamara had it down, always had fantastic food.”
Four years later, and currently in their fifth summer of business, Turtle Beach Café has become a Bethany Beach tradition for locals and vacationers alike.
After a complete revamp of the restaurant’s former space — painting the walls in the now-signature Turtle Beach teal and white, setting up a brand new kitchen and offering a few well-placed palms and outdoor seating to go along with their oceanfront boardwalk view — the Smyth’s turned to the menu, and to making some of Tamara Smyth’s former family-exclusive favorites available to everyone.
The theme throughout the menu is undoubtedly fresh, local, homemade and an alternative to the usual boardwalk staples.
“We found our niche,” said Tristan Smyth of the concept. “There’s so many places around here for burgers, fries, milkshakes, fried food — we’re trying to do the healthy aspect.”
On June 8, Hooked Up celebrated the restaurant’s one-year anniversary by hosting a ribbon-cutting with the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber Commerce. Hooked Up Ale House & Raw Bar is the fourth restaurant in the Off the Hook Restaurant Group. The restaurant’s menu includes a variety of food, ranging from seafood and oysters to burgers and wings.
Operation SEAs the Day supporter Armand’s Pizzeria celebrates 15 years
The Drosdzal family at Armand’s Pizzeria & Grille is in the service industry. That much is obvious. Celebrating a major anniversary this summer, they’ve been in the service industry now for going on 15 years.
Much of that service has been in the form of delivering the goods — specialty pizzas in their signature deep-dish style, signature pastas, such as Riley’s homemade ravioli stuffed with Valentino’s ricotta cheese, or an array of fresh salads, subs, seafood entrees and other traditional Italian fare. But not-so-obviously, the Drosdzals have also been doing their best to deliver on serving those who serve the country as well.
“We’ve been blessed here, and we wanted to give back, to all of the community,” said Ron Drosdzal, owner, operator and family patriarch.
Fenwick Wine Cellars held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, June 2, in celebration of the winery’s expanded facility construction and its new 26-acre property in Frankford, just north of its former location on Route 54 near Selbyville.
The homegrown winery business, owned by fourth-generation farmer Adrian Mobilia, first opened in 2010, with a goal to provide the community with the relaxing experience of an actual vineyard while learning about the wine and the importance of agriculture.
“We leased a building as a test, with the long-term plan always being our own land and building,” explained Mobilia. The hard part was finding the right piece of property. “We had been looking for land for three years,” he said. “Last year, we finally found the right space and purchased it.”
Su Casa holds ribbon-cutting for new Bethany furnishings store
Su Casa held its grand opening weekend, complete with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, on Saturday, June 4. The new store offers home furnishings, décor and small accessories, featuring modern and classic furniture.
Su Casa is focused on providing a source for locally made pieces with stories. Each piece of furniture Su Casa sells is available in a variety of different fabric options or finishes, allowing the buyer to create a unique piece that is exactly what they want. As well as its furniture selections, Su casa also offers a selection of rugs in many sizes.
There was much to do when Bill and Linda Guckin took over the restaurant space formally known as Charlie’s Bayside in Fenwick Island. There were renovations to get under way, color schemes to choose, a brand new menu to create and literal walls to come down, to optimize the space’s scenic waterfront views.
Oh, yeah — and they also had to move their collective allotment of worldly possessions and basically their entire lives from the next state over, from Philadelphia, Pa.
But after a complete redesign of both the restaurant’s atmosphere and its offerings, as well as an eagerly-endorsed one-way U-Haul rental receipt, Fin Alley finally made its debut, just in time for Memorial Day weekend of 2016.
“The one word that I kept on hearing was: ‘Excellent,’” said Linda Guckin of the opening weekend reception. “Not ‘good,’ ‘very good’ or ‘OK,’ but ‘excellent.’ There’s people that have returned three times already. That’s what we want.”
As husband-and-wife entrepreneurs, the Guckins had already embarked on no small number of successful entrepreneurial endeavors in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. But despite that success, city life had begun to take its toll.
That’s when the long-time visitors to the area’s beaches, with a vacation home in Bishopville, Md., began to find it more and more difficult to leave the beach and head back home.
“We were looking around for a business for quite a while, and then this opportunity came about,” explained Bill Guckin. “It’s a good location and great view. We thought, with a good remodel and fixing the place up — maybe improve the menu a bit — we thought people would really enjoy coming here. So we decided to jump on it.”
After a winter storm wrecked a local chicken shack, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7234 members didn’t imagine they’d be able to reopen for summer, without paying a dime. But, the fundraising barbecue shack reopened on May 21, in time for the summer season.
The secret Fenwick Crab House crabcake recipe is locked away in a safe at an undisclosed location.
The dish has been named “The Perfect Crab Cake” by the New York Times, voted Delaware Today’s Reader’s Choice “Best Crab Cakes” three years running and “Best Crab Cake in Delaware” by state-wide publications, among other awards.
But while that recipe hasn’t changed since 1988, only two people know just exactly how it reads.
With owners Scott and Cathy Fornwalt now ready to pass the torch, new owners Pat McArdle and Todd Hays are ready to take on protecting that secret recipe and the Fornwalt legacy at the state’s most historic crab house (est. 1962).
“The traditions of this place were incredible,” said McArdle. “We’re going to continue Scott and Cathy’s, but we also want to add to ours. We want to look out for their reputation and create our own. Our big thing is satisfy the customer, no matter what it takes.”
In 1865, the Civil War was coming to an end. Motorized cars wouldn’t be common in Sussex County for nearly a century. And the Magee family legacy was just beginning, with the purchase of 38 acres in Williamsville.
Today, the family-owned Magee Farms covers 1,300 tillable acres across Selbyville, Lewes and Ocean Pines, Md.
Standing at the June 4 celebration with his wife, Ellen, two sisters, and his sons and their wives, Danny Magee thanked the community in which he’s farmed his whole life. He learned to drive a tractor the day his feet could reach the pedals, he said.
Some things haven’t changed. (“My grandfather grew strawberries. My father grew strawberries,” he said.) But technology has made a huge impact on this fifth-generation farm.
Kim and Justin Cavagnaro recently announced the opening of Ocean Vayu Yoga at 29P Atlantic Avenue in Ocean View, opposite the UPS Store and Northeast Seafood Kitchen. The community is being invited to the opening party and ribbon-cutting on Friday, June 17, at 4 p.m. Classes start Saturday, June 18.
The Cavagnaro name might be familiar to Coastal Point readers, because they have both been active members of the local art community since moving to the area in 2002. And, from 2006 until last year, Kim Cavagnaro was the owner of The Artful Bean, located near the post office in Bethany Beach.
“I was working at Japanesque when the space became available, and I thought it would be an incredible place for Justin and me to display and sell artwork, while we sold a few cups of coffee on the side. But, as time progressed, the coffee and food section of the business really took on a life of its own,” said Cavagnaro.
Several “Culinary Coast” restaurants received nods in National Geographic’s recently released, “Great American Eating Experiences: Local Specialties, Favorite Restaurants, Food Festivals, Diners, Roadside Stands and More.”
Delmarva Power is aiming to make it easier for customers to install solar panels on their rooftops and connect them to the electric distribution system. One recent change will allow customers who are interested in installing solar panels to bypass the paper process and instead complete an online application.
The year is 1985. A young Rebecca Mais has just found out that she didn’t get the job after interviewing for a position at the University of Maryland. The next day, she’ll find out that she’s pregnant.
Mais and her husband, Richard, had already left their posts at the University of South Carolina and were set to relocate in Washington D.C. They were ready for something new. But little did they know then that they’d get more than they’d bargained for when things turned 1986.
Not only was that the year that their first-son, Brandt, was born, in January, but that spring, so was McCabe’s Gourmet Market.
“Rebecca and I laugh — Brandt was born in January, we built an ocean front townhouse that we moved into April 1st, we both left our jobs and then we started the business,” said Richard Mais. “Ten years later, we read a list of the Top 10 reasons people get a divorce, and we had done like seven of them in one year.”
Speculation has run rampant over what would happen with the Harris Teeter building near Salt Pond since that company announced they were closing their doors there in February 2015.
Beebe Healthcare recently congratulated its Nursing Excellence Award recipients and recognized May 6-12 as National Nurses Week.
“Beebe Healthcare is proud to celebrate the role our nurses play in delivering the highest level of quality and patient experience for patients,” said Jeffrey M. Fried, president and CEO, Beebe Healthcare.
It might seem like a long way from pursuing a music career in Nashville, but Tyler Hundley hopes his Millsboro power-washing business will be music to his customers’ ears.
Hundley, 26, is the president of Looks New Powerwashing and the proud owner of a new rig for the business, which he says is state-of-the-art and “the Ferrari of power-washers.”
A 2008 graduate of Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown, Hundley headed to Nashville, a young man with a dream of making it in the music business. While that didn’t pan out the way he had planned, a friendship with a fellow musician led to a business relationship with that same friend, in power-washing. He spent about four years learning the trade alongside his friend, soaking up the tricks of the trade and realizing that it was something he enjoyed — and that he was good at it.
Meghan Kelly has joined the Law Office of McDonnell & Associates P.A. and recently celebrated with a ribbon-cutting with the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce. Located in the Bennett Realty building, she will focus her practice on real estate settlements, as managing attorney for the Delaware office.
The story of Atlantic Shoals Surf Shop is much like that of its owner, Fletcher Birch.
Like Birch, the shop was born on Chincoteague Island, Va., soon after that making the trek north to the Ocean City, Md., and Delaware beach area, on the search for contests and sustainable surf culture.
After a storied competitive career, that search settled down in 2010, when Birch launched Atlantic Shoals in Fenwick Island with business partner Mark Keisewetter, just one year after the doors to the Chincoteague shop opened in 2009.
Now, in 2016, he’s bringing his signature blend of style, surf community and friendly service north once again — this time setting up shop in Bethany Beach.
“The vibe’s gonna be the same. I’m still gonna be doing all the A-to-Z stuff so, it’s really gonna have the same feel,” Birch said. “We’re just looking to bring that shop and that vibe to a new town.”